The name Jazzy Da Lam has been floating around many Vietnamese-related Web sites including this one. Her low-quality MP3’s have created a nice buzz for her profile. Jazz fans have been waiting patiently to hear what this young pianist/singer/composer/writer who has been studying music in Germany has to offer. After two years in production, Da Lam’s debut Moon & You (Trang & Em), a collaboration with German musicians, is ready to introduce to Vietnamese audiences worldwide.
Moon & You embodied four tracks from her pen, and the remaining lyrics, including three English songs, were written by others, but all composed by Da Lam. “Khuc Dem” opens the album with a soothing Latin-jazz fusion. Her soft and clear vocals give the palette a calming color. The way she scats near the end is exhilarating. On the classical “Vat Trang,” Vincent Nguyen’s languorous arrangement sets off the mood by leading listeners into a nocturnal atmosphere. Da Lam voice then joins in and takes us into her magical world, (“Mot dem trang buoc xuong doi / ngam suong nha trang mai doi”), while the orchestration (strings, flute, clarinet, contra bass, and piano) weaving in and out of her aspirate vocals as if sharing her thoughts and soul. Assisted by Ingolf Burkhardt’s silken trumpet, she curls her feathery voice effortlessly around the smooth jazz arrangement on “Trang & Em.”
“Hay Ve Day” is what Da Lam threw in to flirt with the young heads. The funk-pop production is spicy; her voice is spicier. Sex is everywhere: in the sax, in the voice and in the words. Listen to the way she croons the refrain, “Hay ve day / an ai ta co nhau trong dam say / huong tinh yeu thom ngat bao dem lam em ngat ngay / dau nam thang xa cach cho tai te noi dang cay / hay quay ve day.” She begs you to come back and make love to her. She has been waiting for way too long. Can’t you smell the sweet scent of love? She is yearning for your touch. If that is not a booty call, then I don’t know what is.
True to her name, which was given by her online friends, jazz and blues fit her style like hand in glove. On the soulful blues, “Mau Dem,” she floats heartfelt over the light brushwork and shimmering flute riffs. By fusing Vietnamese folk into jazz with her own elegant piano work, Da Lam gives an electrifying presentation on “Vong Dem,” creating a gorgeous image of a Vietnamese women with milky breasts rocking her baby to sleep (“bo mi oi khep ngoan a oi / bau nguc thom huong sua oi a”).
Da Lam not only impresses us with her composing, singing, and writing original music, but also strikes us with her ability to perform in English. Her accentuations are exotic on “Life is” and “When I am With You,” but her timbres are banal on the pop tunes. Although the record featured various styles, it doesn’t feel disorienting thanks to Vincent Nguyen’s focused arrangements and orchestrations, and the night theme Da Lam has cleverly crafted. Yet, I still prefer a solid concentration of jazz and classic. Unlike many new musicians, Da Lam has tremendous potential and proper training in writing and performing, especially in jazz. Like many new singers, her voice is still a work in progress, noticeably her breath control. Nevertheless, her debut is still a sensation.